TMZ Turns 10

On Nov. 8, 2005, there was no hint of the disruptive tactics for which TMZ would soon become known.

We’re still waiting for that big TMZ expose from The New Yorker.

In the meantime, there is a solid op-ed from Toronto Star columnist Vinay Menon, penned on the occasion of the site’s 10th anniversary. (TMZ.com launched in beta mode on Nov. 8, 2005 and was officially launched exactly a month later, Dec. 8.)

The various tiers of Harvey Levin’s operation – TMZ.com, TMZSports.com, the daily half-hour syndicated TV show and the hour-long, more serious examination of what’s going on in the gossip trenches known as TMZ Live – generally have distinct editorial feels. And as reported by our sister site TVNewser, another tier – the TV  version of TMZ Sports – is set to launch tonight at midnight ET on Fox Sports 1.

Menon does a good job of retracing the much more benign initial plans for the AOL/Telepictures site and how some footage of Paris Hilton dinging her car changed everything:

Tips and documents would be chased down. Money would change hands, a traditional no-no in journalism.

The only goal was to “break the agenda,” to expose the stories that were supposed to remain hidden. Levin was determined to become the most feared man in Hollywood.

And on this, its 10th anniversary, TMZ’s greatest achievement comes from legitimizing gossip, from turning the blind items and unsubstantiated rumors that were once fodder for supermarket tabloids into verified stories that now circle the globe, destroying reputations with indiscriminate finality.

Menon’s conclusions about the societal impact of TMZ are more open-ended. But he does make an interesting observation about the effect of the site’s relentless pursuit of celebrity death scoops.

Coincidentally, People magazine will later this month mark the 30th anniversary of its “Sexiest Man Alive” derby, with Jimmy Kimmel revealing this year’s winner on Nov. 17 and a Lifetime TV special celebrating the franchise Nov. 18. Thanks to TMZ, inaugural winner Mel Gibson is today branded very differently.